Thursday 30 December 2010

Who are our competitors - and which worry us?

As "High Street" solicitors, who tend to handle local work for local people, it might be thought that our main competitors are other, similar "High Street" solicitors - I think not

Although there is competition between us and other local firms, we do not see them as an existential threat (oooh! Big words!) On the whole, they tend to have the same philosophy of business as us: do a good job, at a reasonable price, resulting in a satisfied client and a good reputation and more referral business.

To date, a bigger threat has come from those firms, big and small, that indulge in cut-price conveyancing: always ready to undercut the competition - after all, it must be better to discount by (another) £50 and get the work than not, right? Wrong! Cut price conveyancing is bad for everyone involved - even those paying full price further up or down the chain of transactions - as it leads to a "stack it high and sell it cheap" approach, which quickly becomes de-personalised (commoditised) and inefficient. A similar problem results from conveyancers who pay referral fees to buy in work - but that's for another blogpost.

However, a bigger threat still is nearly upon us: "Alternative Business Structures" in the jargoin of the regulators and, especially, non-lawyers being allowed to do conveyancing work for profit. The real threat - to existing practices - is that some big organisations - insurers, "service commoditisers", mortgage lenders, etc, will offer conveyancing services. Not only will they be the ultimate in "pile it high and sell it cheap" but they will have the resources to put in place systems that will far outstrip even the "warehouse conveyancers" of today.

Worst of all, many of them - mortgage lenders are the obvious example - will be able in effect to offer the conveyancing for free: either bundling the cost in with the overall mortgage loan or treating it as a loss leader to get and retain the lending business - and the associated financial services, where lots of money can be made.

How to compete? Well, trying to beat them at their own game will not work, as I simply do not have the financial resources. In order to compete, I need to sell my services to clients on the basis of value for money - not cheapness; genuine efficiency - not artificial busy-ness; local, useful knowledge - not a tick-box approach; and genuine approachability - not slick advertising.

That is why I -
  • offer a money-back guarantee
  • constantly update my office procedures and support IT
  • am closely involved in my local community
  • encourage clients to drop in to my office, without appointments, to speak to my conveyancing managers about anything that concerns them: if it is a legal issue, it will be referred to a lawyer, but for procedural or incidental queries, my managers are well able to cope

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